Re: [-empyre-] interactive video software

The topic of interactive video software is a particular interest of mine as for the last six I have been experimenting and working with techniques that now are known as performance cinema - vjing. I started working with now is known as live cinema around 1999 as a result of my frustrations with digital video editing programs such as Adobe Premiere, and the discovery of the Steim program Imag/ine. As a Undergraduate majoring in two separate degree programs, graphic design / film - video studies, I was continuously searching for means to combine the two fields together but in a manner that did not mimic traditional art & film - video strategies but with different 'new' tools. I was seeking a means to combine the separate interests into a body of work which was / is unique to the possibilities of computation - digital processing.

The one thing that I did not want to do was to create a video / QuickTime which was simply a digital video edited and composited in the traditional non-linear fashion, even if the tools were digital video tools. I wanted to create a moving image which allowed me to create motion in the same manner as Adobe Photoshop. In Photoshop I created work through a process of action, action through process, creating images by a continuous flow of experimentation until I end up at the finished product. At the same time the entire process of creation was important as the process informed and created the final work, this working process was something that I wanted to translate to the moving image.

Imag/ine, the performance software designed by Tom Demyer with Steina Vasulka became the solution. Imag/ine allowed me to combine the varied mediums of graphic design, film - video, and sound into a moving image piece, which for me created a moving image, which was particular to digital processes. Through Imag/ine and later Max / Nato / Jitter I was able to explore the moving image as process, allowing for digital processes to be the main source of inspiration and purpose. I created a moving image, which was a result of digital processing and at the same time explored the possibilities of processing as processing.

In 2000 / 2001 together with HC Gilje and Kurt Ralske, we formed the 242.pilots, the live video performance ensemble. The 242.pilots along with a differing cast of audio performers such as Justin Bennett and Keiko Uenishi seeked to explore live audio / video collaborations in live performance settings. One of the major goals of the 242.pilots was to create a live video performance that was ephemeral and unique to the setting. All performances were held as a group within a seated or open spaced public venue. The performances were never rehearsed or planned; instead they emphasized the capabilities of live video performance software to create a moving image that was always improvised and in real time. Us as separate performers only crossed paths at the venue of performance similarly matching our interaction with the audience. Our points of collision with the audience and ourselves created a performance, which was context specific as each time we met our audience, venue, and ourselves were different causing our work to change and evolve. Each performance was a possible learning opportunity, as we had to work with ourselves and the audience to create a moving image that was successful to the audience and ourselves, and each audience reacted differently.

As Henry Warwick stated in his prior email the audience, the venue, and ones mood at the time of the performance always influences the performance, something that interactive web based video can not do. Interactive web based video is an interesting format and medium but for me it is a difficult body of work as I never break away from the machine. The machine for me is both a working tool and a creating tool but it is not successful as the primary means of presentation. As when I interact with web-based video I am still in the paradigm of the alienanting machine that I use for work. Interacting with web based video never allows me to leave the interface of my work machine, where as live performance cinema allows both the performer and audience to enter into a performance space, a space which takes us away from our daily solo interaction with the screen. At the same time many interactive web based pieces simply mimic the interaction of software systems. As a viewer - participant of an interactive video piece I usually only have the simple option of activating an option out of a limited set of choices provided by the author, not very intriguing or stimulating. At the same time live video cinema does not allow the audience to interact with the piece but as a performer performing live the audience interaction becomes important to the piece as the audience can vote with their feet and leave the venue, linking the performer to the audience, something that even web stats do not provide.

At the same time at the present moment I am starting to create new work which allows the participant to interact physically with virtual constructs on the internet, sort of a physical installation piece which interacts with a virtual installation piece. I look forward to the dialogue about interactive video software and hopefully my email can add to the dialogue.

Best > lukasz

The Voices in my Head tell me that on 3/4/05 11:21 PM, Jim Andrews at wrote:

This is the main 'interactive video' global scene, I believe. Not
interactive video for the Web/Net, but for live performance where the
interactivity is not typically controlled by the audience but by the

This subject is so close to what I do, I am shaking right now as I write
this. It's probably because I'm really tired, but I am also very nervous.

 I don't know where to begin, as this is so "at my core."

I am in the process of writing a (hopefully mercifully short) book on this
very subject, which deals with some theories of what I call "Performance

In September 2003, I put together the San Francisco Performance Cinema

The info for that event is here:

Through this event I met one of the listmoms here, Christina McPhee, who has
become a good friend of mine, and led me to this place of Empyre. Through
Empyre, I have become re-acquainted with a number of people from my past
(Hi!) and become friends with others. So, through the event I organised
around this very topic, much in my life has changed. Dramatically.

I see several essential differences between Live/Performance Cinema, and
Internet based (or even traditional film) based cinema. They all centre
around what I call the cycle of cathexis. Since I can't include graphics,
please forgive the lower D representation of a higher D figure:

artist - > art - > audience - > artist

is one cycle, and it is rather essential.

I have been performing as a musician for... (snip) a really long time...

You get to "know a crowd" pretty quickly, and one's personal presence is
*crucial* to the character of the cathectic flow. Being in front of people
in a live context is a very different thing from a web based situation.

A simple example:

I tell you that in a live chat there will be 150,000 people reading what you
type. This is a daunting prospect.

But - if I push you out onto a stage in front of 150,000 people, it's a
whole 'nother ball game.

In situation A: the flow of energy is purely symbolic, while in situation B,
you have your own senses to deal with.

I have never performed in front of 150,000 people. I have performed in front
of several hundred at one time, at most.

I would also distinguish the difference between interactive video and
performance cinema, and I would tend to question much of what constitutes
the "interactivity" of "interactive" video, as much of what I see as
"interactive art" (much less video) is not much more than various
elaborations on a boolean if/then decision tree, which I find to be
completely, and too often profoundly, UNinteractive.

I have A LOT of problems with VJ material. Most of what I have seen of it is
just awful. There are some brilliant exceptions.

One I would recommend was the performance I saw of the Light Surgeons, who
deconstructed the film "The Fountainhead" based on the book by Ayn Rand.

You can find out about them here:

I have only seen one of their shows, and I was deeply impressed. They were
very much taken with their relation to DJ culture, which I found absurd, for
as far as I know, DJ culture started with poor blacks spinning disks on the
streets or in places like Washington Square Park in the 1970s.

[I remember, because I would ditch high school and go there to buy joints
(or acid or hash or whatever) and hang out... I remember seeing people make
these weird multi-turntable/close-and-play mixes of funk and soul music. At
the time, I thought it kind of sucked, *a lot*, and thought it was really
irritating, but when scratch and scratch video got big in the 80s, it all
made sense to me...]

We, as human beings, are hard-wired to respond to other people and be
sensitive to other s when in their presence. I'm sure we have all written
things in email where we've said things we probably wouldn't have said if we
were faced with the target of our ire. That presence creates cathexis - an
evocative and psychological response and investment. People who have
problems with cathectic responses and investment are usually classified /
pathologised by their deficiencies in this regard:

Sociopaths, autistic, or, inversely, FORM 2 Inwardly Directed ADD, etc.

Throw yourself onto a stage in front of a crowd and tell me you don't FEEL
their presence... That sense is their investment in you: cathexis at that
point is so intense, it becomes palpable.

That kind of investment is often completely missing in internet based work.

This doesn't mean that internet based has *no* investment - it is simply of
a very different nature. How one defines the "stage" in that case becomes
problematic, and interesting, which is one of the reasons why I had Gregor
White from Scotland speak at the SFPCS.

The text of his speech is here:

The other aspect that differs Live vs. Other Cinematic practices
(interactive or otherwise) is a matter of synchrony vs diachrony.

A movie is diachronous - it is essentially identical from one showing to the
next. It can be shown to an empty theatre. It exists as a loop outside of

A performance is synchronous - it will always differ from one performance to
the next: even if the performance is a film and completely diachronous, the
reaction of the audience will differ, making each performance unique. It
exists Only in time.

As the internet allows a kind of fractal dimension of time (kind of like 1.2
D) where the arrow always goes forward, but it can stop for a while and skip
around that which has occurred, it obviates most of the possibilities of any
real live cathexis between the audience and performer through the vessel of
the art and the environment of the art work itself by the very exigencies
involved with what it is to use the internet.

I really need to get some sleep.

I will write more on this tomorrow.



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